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Mobile Technology News, August 27, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Lockheed Martin in space junk deal
    US defence giant Lockheed Martin is teaming up with an Australian technology firm to track space debris that can damage multi-billion dollar satellites.
  • Briefly: T-Mobile iPhone sale, Otterbox exploring buyout
    Starting on Wednesday, T-Mobile will offer a discount of up to $50 off the full price of all iPhones, according to a leaked internal memo. The offer will not affect subsidized iPhones, but applies to “device only” (no contract) sales. The discount will vary depending on the model and capacity, notes TmoNews, and is likely a reaction to recent price-cutting of contract phones by retailers like Walmart, which has dropped the price of the iPhone 5c to 97 cents and the iPhone 5s to $79 with a two-year contract.



  • Tunisia's first video games boss
    ‘I want to build something with a global reach’
  • Introducing Hyperlapse, Instagram's Latest Creation
    Instagram announced the launch of a new app on Tuesday that will allow users to easily make time-lapse videos.

    Hyperlapse, which is only available on iPhones for now, uses image stabilization technology to let users make videos that look as polished as their Instagram photos.

    In a post to their website, Instagram said, “Traditionally, time-lapse videos depend on holding your phone or camera still while you film. Hyperlapse from Instagram features built-in stabilization technology that lets you create moving, handheld time lapses that result in a cinematic look, quality and feel — a feat that has previously only been possible with expensive equipment.”

    Here’s an example, via Instagram:

    The app’s creators told Wired that they decided to make it a separate app rather than a built-in Instagram feature because they were worried users might just ignore it.

    Time-lapse has gained enormous popularity around the web in recent years. It works by capturing frames at a much slower rate than normal so that when the video is sped up, movements appear more dramatic and defined.

  • Where Is Josh Harris Now? Catching Up With We Live in Public's Star Prophet 5 Years Later
    Before Mark Zuckerberg ever got his first computer, Josh Harris, founder of Jupiter Communications, had made many millions in the tech world forecasting Internet trends and predicted that we would share everything online. In 1994, Harris founded Pseudo Networks, a website for live audio and video webcasting with shows ranging from space, to hip hop, from fashion to sex. However, this was years before broadband, so the size of the show was no bigger than a postage stamp. In just a few short years, Pseudo would grow to 50 separate channels and generate 200 hours of original programming per month. By January of 1999, Harris had leased two adjacent buildings on Lower Broadway in Manhattan which would become the site of “Quiet: We Live In Public” – named one of the Top 10 Art Installation’s ever by Art Forum – replete with 150 living pods, an 80-foot dining table, and a gun range. There were 110 surveillance cameras through the space, and every “resident” had their own channel through which to watch each other. Harris proclaimed, “Everything is free, except your image. That we own.” Still hundreds lined up for a spot, donning uniforms and answering 500 questions about the most private aspects of their lives. This live-in social experiment was Harris’ way of marking the new era he believed we were entering at the turn of the Millenium which he described as “Man Vs. Machine.” I was there filming it all and recorded data that proved to me more than anything how willingly we trade our privacy and our freedom for the connection and recognition we so dearly crave as humans.

    The resulting film WE LIVE IN PUBLIC chronicles Josh Harris before and for years after this bunker was shut down by the SWAT team on January 1st 2000, who perceived it to be a Millennial cult. The film is culled from 5000 hours of footage and shot over ten years. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and was acquired for the permanent collection at the MoMA NY.

    Over the last few months, the chinatown gallery Amy Li Projects has curated “A Quiet Summer” – a series of exhibitions by artists and former participants including Alfredo Martinez, Jeff Gompertz, and Donna Ferrato. On Friday, August 28th the exhibition will feature “The Making of Quiet”. This is my rough cut of never-before-seen footage recorded at the multi-level underground bunker as it was built and lived in during December 1999. Culled from hundreds of hours recorded in that bunker, it represents the highlights which were then whittled down to scenes that play in the feature documentary. It is the first time this footage has played publicly.

    But whatever happened to the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of? Harris had all but disappeared for years before WE LIVE IN PUBLIC came out, until we brought him back to the US for the premiere – he arrived in desert combat attire, eyes darting about in snowy Park City. After receiving the fan fare five years ago, Josh Harris slipped from view yet again…

    We found him recently while filming in Las Vegas for A TOTAL DISRUPTION (with Tech Cocktail and other companies that are part of Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project.) I was compelled to pause on my current ATD action and catch up with Josh at a boxing gym, to discover what he has been up to these many years and why Las Vegas is part of the plan.

    Knowing Josh as I do, I didn’t find it surprising when he told me that his time in Vegas is preparation for his latest project, Net Band Command, which Josh describes as a “Truman Show for everyone.”

    Here’s a short film we put together to bring you up to date.

  • Marijuana and Tech: Colorado is Now Ground Zero
    My oh my, what Colorado has done to turn the tables on America’s “war” on drugs.

    Having approved marijuana for legal sale, distribution, and cultivation, Colorado is leading the way in attracting all kinds of investors and luminaries who seek to cash in on this nascent industry, not just with dollars but also with disruptive technology that’s being developed by professionals of all stripes and colors.

    Think of agricultural engineers, technicians, food and science specialists; the marijuana industry casts a wide net, capturing different types who can contribute their expertise on the growing of a cash crop for which the sky’s the limit. Marijuana remains a Scheduled 1 drug, of course, but that hasn’t stopped the industry from developing in all sorts of new directions thanks to the majority voters who have approved medical and/or recreational pot in their respective states.

    Since retail sales began in January, the Marijuana Industry Group (MIG) estimates about 10,000 people are employed in Colorado’s marijuana industry, with thousands more being added each month. Behind marijuana production lies technology. Companies like Boulder-based Surna, a manufacturer of disruptive equipment for the cannabis industry, are developing patents to facilitate the aggregation of the industry, leading the way with their own proprietary services.

    “The approach is more synchronistic than people would imagine, and, as a result of that, we’ve been able to get some provisional patents filed that we think are incredibly disruptive and will be the technology that drives the growth of this industry,” said Tae Darnell, VP and General Council of Surna.

    Led by CEO Tom Bollich, a robotics engineer and co-founder of online gaming company Zynga, Surna has developed its own patented water-chilled climate control system designed for large marijuana production facilities. Darnell told me that Surna’s ultimate goal is to push the boundaries of the industry itself, maximizing yield and experimenting with different potencies and their health benefits.

    Cultivation of cannabis in the 21st century just might take off the way industrial hemp did before its production was shut down by the federal government. The times are a-changing, indeed. With more states on track to legalize cannabis for medical use, companies like Surna are looking to take advantage of this expansion and set the standard on such key issues as consistency, including food safety and the burgeoning edibles marketplace.

    If the federal government continues to take a hands-off approach towards states that choose to legalize medical and/or recreational marijuana, this could very well go global, creating new business opportunities for U.S. firms. Uruguay stepped up to the plate having recently become the first country to legalize marijuana possession, use, and sales. Canada recently opened up its medical marijuana market to improve upon the production of quality-controlled marijuana.

    “There is no doubt that the international and domestic markets are exploding, ” said Darnell. “Surna plans to do for cannabis what General Electric has done for the medical industry and other sectors.” Colorado wants to serve as a beacon for other states interested in embracing both marijuana regulation and the technology that is being developed to manage it.

    The U.S. is still fragmented in its policies towards marijuana with 23 states now openly challenging federal laws that have approved it for medical use. But the potential remains huge, hence the excitement surrounding this fledgling industry. I have no doubt that if and when the federal government finally comes down on the side of regulating marijuana that we will one day see commercially available cannabis products nationwide.

    Some of these brands will assuredly begin trading on the stock exchange, and before you know it, you’ll be standing in line waiting to order your Blackberry Kush-infused latte, or Purple Urkle smoothie.

  • 3 Best Practices to Drive Mobile Engagement With Push Notifications
    Driving consumer engagement in apps has become a top challenge for mobile marketers and developers. Because it’s so expensive and difficult to get noticed on the App Store in the first place, making sure you engage any consumer who has already downloaded your app is essential. On mobile phones, “push notifications” are one of the best and most cost effective ways to keep your users to keep using your app. Push notifications are alerts sent to a smartphone’s home screen on behalf of an app. You’ve probably noticed them on your own phone – they pop up when you get a new email, a friend makes an update on Facebook or your crops are ready to harvest on Hay Day.

    And while they’re effective at increasing user engagement, you have to be careful not to turn users off by over-communicating or sending notifications for the wrong reasons. To help you get the most out of your push notification program, here are some best practices I’ve learned by managing notifications for many different apps, including during my time at Facebook.

    Best practice #1: set up a baseline & key metrics.

    Push notifications primarily drive user engagement. Send too many and you risk upsetting users and getting them to ignore your most important messages. Send too few and you’re missing out. To find the right balance, it’s important to map out the effectiveness of your notifications.

    – Create an inventory of key consumer events throughout your engagement funnel. Do each event generate a notification?

    – For each notification type, map out how many are sent vs. how many users act on. Is there a positive correlation between volume sent and Click-Through Rate (CTR)?

    – Link push notifications to your topline engagement KPI. How does push notifications affect Daily/Weekly/Monthly Active Users (DAU, WAU, MAU)?

    Best practice #2: personalize by smartly promoting, aggregating and cutting.

    Once you’ve created this baseline, your next step is to work on improving your key metrics. Your most engaged users likely have different needs and expectations when it comes to what notifications they receive.

    – Your most engaged users will need predictability. Unless you notice that sending this group too many notifications negatively affects engagement, you will need to make sure that they receive notifications quickly and reliably. Notifications that are location and/or time sensitive are the ones to prioritize.

    – The bulk of your users will be interested in what is both important and urgent. While you want to make sure to push notifications that are both urgent and important to your users, you might consider aggregating some types of push notifications, and cutting off the one that get less than 5-7% CTR.
    – You may be able to win back lapsed users with the right notifications. They might not be active enough to trigger product-related notifications, so you will want to test some retention notifications that will bring them back.

    Personalizing push notifications is an ongoing effort that requires supporting A/B testing infrastructure. A key element to test is the copy, which should be specific and include a clear call-to-action.

    Best practice #3: maximize push deliverability with a platform approach.

    Your efforts to deliver quality push notifications will be wasted if your users opt out of receiving them, a significant risk especially on iPhones. Here’s how you can maximize push deliverability:

    – Educate users on the benefits of receiving push notifications. Give them opportunities to understand what’s in it for them and to change their mind if they have opted out of receiving them.

    – Leverage the capabilities of new push platform releases, such as embedded pictures, in-line responses, etc. This may mean that you adjust your KPIs because some users will be able to stay engaged without even having to launch your app.

    – Set up a reliable push infrastructure to ensure that push notifications get delivered no matter the platform (iOS, Android, etc.) and the carrier (AT&T, Verizon, etc.)

    Push notifications are powerful drivers of mobile engagement. By setting clear goals and metrics, personalizing and maximizing deliverability, you can make a significant impact.

  • Journalism Uber Alles
    2014-08-23-ls.jpg.png

    Yesterday it was announced that David Plouffe, former campaign manager for Barack Obama (among other things) was joining Uber, the taxi app, as a “campaign manager” there as well, to build out the potential of the brand.

    It’s a good move for Plouffe. Uber was recently valued at $18 billion. That’s pretty good for a taxi app.

    I have used Uber and I like it. A lot.

    Living in Manhattan, there were times, like at the notorious 4:30 shift change, when it was just about impossible to get a cab. Uber has solved this problem forever. Also, the cars are cleaner, the billing is done behind the scenes and the drivers all remarkably seem to know where they are going — unlike many NYC cab drivers.

    Uber is but the latest success in the use of crowd sourcing married to an iPhone to solve a problem (and create a very valuable company in a very short period of time).

    If you take a look at the most successful companies that are purely derivative of the web (as opposed to old companies that have been jammed into the web), you get an interesting (and very valuable) list:

    Facebook
    Instagram
    Twitter
    eBay
    airbnb
    Pinterest
    Tripadvisor

    The list goes on and on. And so do the zeros attached to the valuations.

    But all of these companies have one thing in common. They are all 100 percent driven by what we might call User Generated Content. That is, all of their “guts” are created not in an office or by employees, but by ‘regular people’ simply putting ‘stuff’ into the iPhones. Uber is no different.

    At the same time as these companies are reaching astronomical valuations (and more are being added all the time), older companies are fast going out of business.

    I am particularly concerned with the journalism business (as a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism). When I graduated, journalism was a hot ticket. There were lots of places to go to work. Today, there are few and even they are evaporating fast. Last week, Clay Shirky published what is pretty much the death knell for newspapers. Television news is probably 10 years behind papers, if not fewer.

    Can we save journalism?

    Most solutions I have read so far come down to the NPR model. Which is not a business, interesting though it is.

    I began to wonder if would be possible to use the UBER model for journalism. After all, if it is good enough to call a taxi, isn’t it good enough to call up information?

    There are an estimated 1.4 billion smart phones in circulation around the world.

    While most major media companies look at smart phones as a place where you can read The NY Times or access Facebook, they are also what I would call “nodes of content creation.” (Where do you think all the Tweets come from? And who do you think is making them?)

    Is it then not possible use these 1.4 billion phones to do more than send out tweets or order up taxis?

    Could we create a reversed kind of news organization — one in which the content flows not to your smart phone, but from it?

    Could we enlist even a small percentage of those 1.4 billion people all over the world to put journalism into the system instead of taking it out?

    Could we create an Uber for news and information? A Facebook for content? An Instagram for photos of more than what we had for lunch?

    I think so.

    A world without journalism would not only be a poorer place, it would be a very dangerous place.

    Clearly, we can’t depend upon newspapers or even television or radio news to keep us informed. Those models can’t turn a profit. They have almost no value.

    But Uber does.

    And if Uber is worth $18 billion, what could an app that gathered and aggregated news and information on a second by second basis from a billion sources all over the world all the time be worth?

    A lot?

    Probably.

  • Apple Said To Prepare New 12.9-Inch IPad For Early 2015 – Bloomberg
    Apple Inc.’s suppliers are preparing to manufacture the company’s largest-ever iPad, with production scheduled to commence by the first quarter of next year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

  • eBay State Map Reveals All Your Neighbors' Quirky Shopping Habits (And Yours, Too)
    While you’d like to blame that compulsive purchase of rainbow-colored Adirondack chairs on a moment of mid-winter delirium, the state where you live might actually offer more insight on your shopping habits.

    According to an infographic created by eBay, the items people purchased the most over the last year can be categorized by state. Virginians, for example, have purchased their share of patio and gardening supplies, while their neighbors in North Carolina are racking up on baby gear. We’re partial to vintage home decor (though eBay has our home state of New York pegged otherwise) and it appears that Arkansas and Illinois residents are into decorating, too.

    Check out what your neighbors are buying in the infographic below.

    ebay state map

    h/t Mashable

  • Netflix Actually Won Big At Last Night's Emmys
    By one very important measure, Netflix looked like a big loser at Monday night’s Emmy Awards.

    The streaming network had been nominated for 31 Primetime Emmys, but walked away from the most important categories empty-handed. The company reportedly spent more than $100 million to produce its marquee original shows “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” which were bested by “Breaking Bad” and “Modern Family” in the Outstanding Drama and Comedy series categories, respectively.

    The New York Times hailed last night’s awards show as “a win for broadcast and cable television,” which is widely considered to be having a sort of new golden age.

    Yet not all is lost for Netflix. The Emmys are basically a huge marketing opportunity for television, prompting people to watch shows they may have missed the first time around. New audiences are likely to watch Emmy winners like “Sherlock,” “Scandal,” “Louie,” “American Horror Story” and, of course, “Breaking Bad,” which scored five Emmys Monday night — so a good night at the Emmys, driving demand for quality programming, could send new customers to Netflix.

    And perhaps even more importantly, Netflix helped to create that good night at the Emmys. The service, which allows people to catch up on past seasons of shows, also helps keep great programming in circulation.

    Netflix doesn’t release viewership data, but third-party researcher SimilarWeb said that “Breaking Bad” was the most popular show on Netflix last year. Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, has even attributed the success of his show about a high school science teacher-turned-meth dealer to Netflix. “I think Netflix kept us on the air,” he told reporters after last year’s Emmy Awards, according to Variety. “Not only are we standing up here (with the Emmy), I don’t think our show would have even lasted beyond Season 2 … It’s a new era in television, and we’ve been very fortunate to reap the benefits.”

    That new era of television has dawned in part because technology allows consumers to watch — and binge-watch — whenever they want. Consumer time spent watching video on the Internet — through Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and Hulu — is up 54 percent this year, according to Nielsen.

    Many popular new shows, including “House of Cards,” “Mad Men” and “True Detective,” have succeeded in part because viewers can pause, rewind and watch multiple episodes in one sitting from almost anywhere.

    That ubiquitous availability has also helped HBO’s hit shows and movies, including Emmy winners and nominees like “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep” and “The Normal Heart.” HBO Go, HBO’s streaming platform, has grown 40 percent in the last year to 11.3 million registered accounts in the U.S.

    Broadcast networks like NBC and ABC have also joined the trend, making current seasons of their shows available on-demand, according to USA Today. Rentrak, a media measurement company, says that video-on-demand viewership is up 122 percent since 2010.

    Investors didn’t seem to mind that Netflix didn’t win awards in the major categories Monday night (to be fair, the company took home seven awards). The stock closed Tuesday at $479.36, near its all-time high.

  • Geezer Masters Techno-Speak
    2014-08-24-technology.jpg

    Technology, for anyone born after 1980, is part of your language. But the rest of us? It’s like learning to speak in tongues. And learning curves do not always move smoothly upward.

    Suppose you grew up thinking a drop down window simply had a broken sash cord — if you were born after 1980 you probably don’t know what sash cords are anyway — and right click was something you did with castanets? And your brain is wired to hit the return lever at the end of every line, but you’re suddenly supposed to know where the tool bar with the back button is, and you thought a back button was something that fastened to a loop at the top of your blouse? You get the picture.

    Well, no, you don’t get the picture, that’s the problem.

    Getting the picture onto the blog post takes us right back to the language issue: We know those free-use illustrations are out there, but where and how to find them and — more to the point — how to get them from Point A (wherever they are) to Point B (above) is hidden in the mystery language of WordPress and the internet. Friends, some born after 1980, try to help, clicking through drop-down windows and navigating mysterious boxes with astonishing lack of success. This writer’s learning curve, meanwhile, flatlines.

    Enter my techie friend Ryan. He was born before 1980 but not that long. Ryan speaks WordPress.

    All you have to know, he explains, is to Google the topic, click on Images, make the magic Usage Rights appear by clicking on the Search Tools, save to your Desktop (which used to be a flat pine surface.) Then on your WordPress dashboard (which used to be in the car) click Edit on the screen below Title, click once on the photo, which brings up the magic pencil, which will lead you to the boxes, and more pencils and a few more choices. Simple. Of course. (I admit to cheating a little, taking notes on an old-fashioned sheet of paper.)

    Here’s the bottom line: an illustration for this post appears above. Even geezers can learn.

  • Technology and Marketing Battling for C-Suite Supremacy
    For the past 20+ years, there may have been no two positions in an organization more disconnected than marketing and technology.

    Even as companies began to take on marketing automation and tools for email marketing, social media and other marketing activities, it wasn’t at all uncommon for marketing to manage their tools while IT put their focus on other things.

    For the most part IT made sure core business systems were running. From the server to the edge, it was the responsibility of a companies IT to make sure that peoples day-to-day applications like CRM, ERP and their basic email, word processing and phones all were up and running.

    Of course this was at a time when companies owned everything. The software and hardware were company issued, and it was rare that anyone was using their own devices extensively to do their daily work. (See also: Blackberry)

    Today that is all different. No longer are these two positions living in a vacuum only speaking when someone cannot get their email to load. Today the two are working together everyday as the tools and applications that drive marketing are being found in the cloud, on mobile devices and in pockets of an organization where the IT department has little to no awareness of their use.

    Executives Jockey For Position

    As the technology use case evolves, it has become almost impossible for the IT team to control the use of company assets let alone people’s own devices.

    Tools like Yammer evolved out of necessity as teams looked for simpler faster ways to collaborate. With sharing and document management often being a pain on a local device, many people turned to dropbox or other inexpensive free applications to manage their storage. Rarely taking any consideration to whether or not these applications were “IT Approved” or even private for that matter.

    But with earnings and revenue taking precedent it was often that leadership turned a blind eye and responded only to what helps us drive results fastest? And if working off of an ipad on a rogue application made employees more productive then perhaps it isn’t worth the energy to eradicate it?

    The movement has now grown more feverish and with productivity and connectivity applications available widely via the cloud, companies are rethinking who controls technology and this is bringing question to who should have control.

    If IT were to control it then the focus would be on policy, management, and systems, which is good for consistency but often preventative when it comes to expediency. Marketing however may be too likeliy to act with blinders on seeing only the path to faster bottom line results leaving them to break things and potentially create messes that IT will later have to clean up.

    It is because of this that business IT leaders and Marketing leaders are coming to a head about where the future of technology lies. With tech being both critical and operational it would seem more important that the controls are in place, but there is an obvious shift that says control may not be possible if speed of change is a desired outcome?

    The best solution may be collaboration, but with such vastly different views, you wonder if that is even possible. I mean, doesn’t somebody have to have the final say?

    A Trend That Impacts Businesses Large and Small

    For most small companies, there may not be anyone walking around with the title of CMO or CIO. They may be Marketing Director or IT Manager or perhaps VP of Marketing and the Director of IT. Regardless of title, these two positions exists within most companies, but their purpose has changed infinitely form where they started.

    With the role of the CIO today being more about technology enablement as cloud, BYOD and consumerization continue to drive disruption technology, it is more important than ever before that the power suite that drives a companies tech and marketing are working collaboratively.

    Technology is no longer just the hardware and software that empowers a business. It serves as the epicenter of how we connect, communicate and collaborate. Integrated applications and workflow design are going to closely mirror customer acquisition and retention and it is because of this that the person(s) responsible for technology in the organization will need to be tied at the hip with those responsible for brand awareness, business development and of course revenue.

    So will there be a winner in this race or will the intersection of technology and marketing be only as successful as the collaboration that takes place between those responsible for the infrastructure and those driving customer demand?

    One thing is for sure, the silos have come down and in the future the way we use technology will be more impactful than ever before on who makes the decisions about the what, how and when it is adopted within the organization.

  • Facebook to Fix Security Issue in iOS App
    Facebook has announced that it will soon be publishing an update to its iOS app, which will fix a flaw in the program that allows phone calls to be made without the user’s knowledge or consent.

    So, the downloading and use of a Facebook App could create security threats? Who’d have thunk it? Oh, wait…I could, and did right here on Huffington Post.

    Last December I posted an article calling out the Android permission settings on the Facebook Messenger app and others like it. I highlighted the threat that the “without your permission” stipulation, among others, could open the door for malicious third party software or hackers to gain access to your smart phone.

    The article created quite a stir when it went viral last month when Facebook began removing the IM function from within its social networking app. For the most part, readers shared my concern; however, a select group of self-proclaimed tech geeks suggested that I was misinforming people and that I was just paranoid. Others pointed to the fact that the permission settings were specific to Android and that the sandboxing offered on Apple’s iOS would prevent such unauthorized access from occurring.

    Was I really paranoid? Are security issues only possible on Android apps thanks to the manner in which it manages permission settings? Well, earlier this week Andrei Neculaesei, a developer at Copenhagen-based Airtame, discovered a dangerous bug in the Facebook iOS app’s programming that might cause potentially expensive calls to be made with your iPhone, without requesting your permission.

    Neculaesei shares how the bug works on his blog where he explains that there’s a potential for your iPhone’s calling function to be hijacked when you click on a web link. He calls the bug “some sneaky-beaky-like JavaScript,” which makes the links embedded in websites click themselves.

    The threat could be even bigger. Neculaesei predicts that the vulnerability in theses apps could automatically transmit a video feed to attackers when clicking on a link within Facetime, for example. Facebook has announced that it has already developed an update to address the security threat; however, a release date has yet to be listed as of the date of this post.

    Are We Right to be Paranoid?

    My security concerns over our increasing use of mobile apps, for which we rarely read the permission settings or terms of service, were met with harsh criticism by some who said I was wearing a tinfoil hat and breeding paranoia.

    I hate to say “I told you so” but, well, there it is. One of the potential threats I feared has come to life.

    Will there be others? Of course there will.

    Should you delete all your mobile apps? Of course not.

    What we should do is start taking the time to read the fine print before we download apps that request access to our phone’s data and functionality, and really consider if the app’s utility is worth the potential security risks that may come with using it.

    Next, we must put more pressure on app manufacturers to be clearer and more specific about how and why they need to access certain data and functions on our phones, and offer limitations on how that data will used once collected.

    Finally, we must start to insist that they add greater safeguards to protect our data or we’ll stop downloading them.

    What say you? Are you at all concerned about the increased threat posed by the permission settings and/or terms of use we accept when downloading modern apps?

  • This App Could Help Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits
    There are numerous apps out there to help adults track their food consumption and lose weight, but what about an app that helps children develop healthier eating habits?

    Joanna Struber joined HuffPost Life host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani to discuss the kid-friendly food tracking app she founded, Kurbo.

    “Food tracking is a great way to pay attention to what you’re eating and to make healthier choices,” said Struber, “but they’re based on calories, and calorie counting is not safe for kids; we don’t want them to focus on calories, we want them to focus on eating healthy foods.”

    While her own son struggled with weight issues, Struber knew it was time to create something to help him, and other kids, develop healthier eating habits.

    “I needed a tool, I needed something he and I could do together that would help us make better choices in our home,” explained Struber. “I also needed to understand better what he was eating, and by the time your child is 13 you don’t actually know what they’re eating when you’re not with them, so this is how he was recording it.”

    Struber’s son was able to reduce his BMI and create a healthier lifestyle thanks to Kurbo’s ability to empower and coach kids to make their own decisions, while holding them accountable.

    “Part of the problem that kids have is they don’t want to do what their parents tell them to do,” noted Struber. “So instead, the phone becomes the coach and we give them feedback and suggestions both live and through texting on how they can make healthier choices and do a better job of managing what they are eating.”

    To hear more of the conversation, watch the full HuffPost Live segment here.

  • This Is Uber's Playbook For Sabotaging Lyft | The Verge
    ‘Brand ambassadors’ with burner phones and credit cards attempt to #shavethestache
  • Virtual Reality Could Help Teach Sustainable Habits, Change Long Term Behavior
    nature virtual reality

    This story originally appeared on Mother Nature Network.

    The New Forest National Park in England recently opened a Tech Creche, a service that allows children and adults to leave their cellphones and tablets behind, and instead immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. On the one hand, it sounds like a great way to combat tech addiction. With so many headlines warning of smartphones turning kids into zombies, and perhaps even increasing risky sexual behavior, the idea of forcing kids and adults alike to take a break from their screens seems like a perfectly healthy thing to do. That’s especially true if it encourages them to appreciate nature more.

    Some educators, researchers and activists, however, are pondering a different approach. Instead of forcing a choice between tech or nature, say these pragmatists, maybe we need to find the right combinations of tech and nature that can help kids get more immersed in their environment, and perhaps even inspire lifestyle changes to protect the world around them. (Even Sir David Attenborough is working on a virtual reality nature documentary.) That’s the focus of a fascinating piece over at the Smithsonian Magazine that looks at the use of virtual and augmented reality as a way to modify attitudes and behaviors in a more sustainable direction. The concept is even winning over skeptics:

    “I was initially not sold on the idea of augmented reality,” said cognitive scientist Tina Grotzer, a professor in Harvard’s graduate school of education and the co-principal investigator for both the EcoMUVE and EcoMobile projects. Grotzer spent several years as a teacher herself before heading to Harvard to research how kids learn, particularly how they learn science. Grotzer said it was the technology’s potential to drive home environmental science lessons that won her over. “With physics, you can do an experiment, and kids can see instantly what you’re talking about. With environmental science, we tried to do a decomposition experiment, but you set the experiment up and then 12 weeks later something happens. By then the kids have completely lost interest.”

    These ideas are of particular value when it comes to teaching about climate change, a problem of such scale and magnitude that it’s hard for any of us to to grasp or act on in our daily lives. Humans, after all, have evolved to deal with what’s in front of us — whether that’s a predatory animal, the need to feed our families or find a mate. Our ancestors might have eventually learned to store food for the winter, and most of us have at least some good intentions to save for our retirement, but ask us to act on threats that seem distant and remote and it is hard to stay motivated — especially if everyone around us continues with life, business-as-usual.

    virtual reality game changes attitudes about climateBy using virtual reality, researchers can immerse their subjects in seemingly realistic environments but tweak them to demonstrate and make tangible the impact of their actions. In one experiment detailed in the Smithsonian piece, for example, participants are asked to chop down trees in a pristine forest with a chainsaw. Researchers then follow how the experience impacts their paper use:

    When she leaves this forest, and re-enters the “real” world, her paper consumption will drop by 20 percent and she will show a measurable preference for recycled paper products. Those effects will continue into the next few weeks and researchers hypothesize it will be a fairly permanent shift. By comparison, students who watch a video about deforestation or read an article on the subject will show heightened awareness of paper waste through that day — but they will return to their baseline behavior by the end of the week.

    Other programs and platforms being developed include an MIT-designed game called Time Lapse 2100 which allow students to set policy parameters effecting the environment, and then watch how those decisions impact the environment over the course of a century. Another, developed by Stanford, allows students to actually “be” a piece of coral in the ocean and watch as the devastating impacts of ocean acidification unfold around them.

    Whether or not virtual and augmented reality applications can help change human behavior remains to be seen. It’s worth noting, however, that almost anything is worth a try at this point. Environmentalists have been preaching the same reduce, reuse, recycle mantras for the last 40 years, accompanied by worthy videos and speeches about the destruction we have wrought. The result, depressingly enough, has been ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions and a refusal in many circles to even accept the basic science of climate change.

    Time to try something different. Pass the sci-fi goggles.

  • A Needed Review
    As previously hinted at, President Obama has ordered a review of a Defense Department program that distributes surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. This review, triggered by the civil disturbances in Missouri, will examine not only whether the equipment distribution was appropriation, but also whether proper training and oversight has concurrently been administered. In all likelihood, the review will expand to examine whether other federal programs, including the $2 to $3 billion in grants handed out annually by the Department of Homeland Security, have resulted in an “over-militarization” of police departments across the country.

    I won’t go into the merits of these programs, and whether the distribution/funding of military-type equipment has led to abuses of civil authority. The only comment I would make here is that it is often useful to remember why these programs came into existence (typically the result of concerns about police capability gaps following a traumatizing event like a terrorist attack or school shooting).

    Regardless of the motivation for the review I do think it is one that is sorely overdue; but not necessarily for the reasons that triggered it. Instead I think the review is necessary to help better clarify funding priorities so that state and local governments are getting the right equipment to confront the most pressing threats.

    One of the greatest challenges with equipping state and local governments is prioritization: are the most right threats being reduced by the equipment dispensed? Conducting such risk based analyses are incredibly difficult, particularly given the ever-changing nature of threats and the inevitable politics involved in who gets what and when.

    In my mind, the review will be successful if it helps distinguish the possible from the probable. There can be a huge gap between the two, and focusing on the 100 year event often leaves local communities vulnerable to everyday pernicious threats.

    Specifically, I am thinking about whether state and local governments are receiving adequate federal support to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. From I can observe, the answer is a flat no.

    We are basically 13 years removed from the horror of 9/11. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent in the interim ensuring that state and local governments have adequate resources available to respond to a variety of threats. Visions of chemical and biological attacks, “dirty bombs”, improvised explosive devices, and “active shooter” events have danced through the head of any number of public safety officials. And the result has been extraordinary amounts of equipment that can be bought using federal dollars or obtained through surplus disposition programs.

    Our law enforcement officers and first responders sorely needed equipment to combat those threats, and they in large part have gotten it. Now though, it is time to take a step back and determine whether the cyber-threat should be a higher funding/outfitting priority.

    Anecdotally speaking, I think the answer is a resounding yes. If you look the scale and scope of cyber-attacks, both actual and possible, the contrast with physical events is astounding. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of malware are being created on a daily basis, and any number of organizations face thousands of attacks per day.

    State and local governments are not immune from these attacks; some of the largest data breaches have occurred at the state level. Many governors have expressed concern about the need to improve their cyber security posture. Such worries make great sense – states hold just as much sensitive data on individuals as any other organization, and deliberate attacks designed to disrupt public utilities or even simple things like traffic lights could cause absolute chaos.

    Thus reviewing how equipment and money is provided to state and local law enforcement agencies and governments is an absolutely vital step as we build additional defenses against the cyber-attack onslaught. There will always be a place for providing police departments with equipment to respond to violent threats, but right now taking a step back to see how more can be done to protect against electronic threats is not only right, it is vital.

    Brian E. Finch (@brianefinch) is a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

  • Quick Start guide may show design, announcement date for iPhone 6
    French site Nowhereelse has published a photo of what it claims is the Quick Start guide for the iPhone 6. If authentic, the guide shows the layout of the device, including a sleep/wake button relocated from the top to the side, presumably because of the phone’s larger size. The date on the phone is also set to “Tuesday, September 9,” when Apple is generally expected to announce new iPhones. Past Quick Start guides have also used announcement dates.



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